World

U.S. Out of the Lithium Mines

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The New York Times reported this morning that Americans in Afghanistan have uncovered nearly a trillion dollars' worth of mineral deposits. Conor Friedersdorf reacts:

"This is my land! And it's rich with lithium!"

The United States cannot help Afghanistan exploit its newly discovered mineral resources without being corrupted by proximity to the vast riches they're likely to bring. It is especially imprudent to assign a leadership role to the Pentagon, an institution shrouded in official secrecy, largely captured by special interests inside America's military-industrial complex, and lacking any precedent to suggest it is capable of the task.

Nor is it particularly reassuring to imagine another branch of the American government working with corrupt Afghan officials to develop a mining industry in the country, especially since profitability is years away, which itself gives the United States a perverse incentive to extend our war in that nation.

Meanwhile, Blake Hounshell has some doubts about that trillion-dollar figure.